Tom Ballard, ND's blog

Fish vs. Ritalin
January 4, 2010, 11:20 am
Filed under: Research

Anthropologists believe high intake of omega-3 oils, as found in fish and free-range meat, are associated with increased brain size and intelligence. Unfortunately, consumption of these vital oils has decreased over the past 100 years. Some researchers believe this is partially responsible for the behavior and mood problems that our society is experiencing.

One recent study found that six fish oil caps a day (6000mg) worked more effectively for treating hyperactivity than Ritalin. The fish oil also didn’t cause any side effects, while Ritalin is known to cause heart problems, dizziness, insomnia, and has been blamed for the deaths of nine children in the UK and dozens more in the US. The improvement in hyperactivity in this study took three to seven months, so it’s not quick.

Shockingly, almost two million prescriptions for Ritalin are written each year. How many of these children are deficient in omega-3 oils? No one knows, but rates of essential fatty acid deficiency are very high in the general population and it is estimated that, despite known benefits to the heart and circulation, people take in one-fifth of the recommended dose of 1000 mg daily.

How many MDs and school psychiatrists start children on fish oil before trying the more dangerous Ritalin? I wouldn’t say none, but it’s rare. The pharmaceutical industry dominates thinking about hyperactivity, just as they do medicine in general.

While Ritalin prescription numbers are high, even more prescriptions of Adderall (8.7 million) and Concerta (8.2 million) are prescribed for hyperactivity. This means that nearly 20 million children are being medicated for what may be an omega-3 oil deficiency (allergies and digestive problems are also implicated).

This is one of the advantages of being older. When I was a high-strung student, the ability to drug students did not exist. Nowadays we should think of omega-3s first, before deciding to drug our children.